I have a remarkable daughter but she doesn’t allow me to talk about her very often, and therefore she must remain…anonymous. One beautiful night a week ago, I accompanied her to her end of the year soccer party and listened as her coach honored her in front of her teamates. He praised her crazy fast legs, her hard work and dedication and then he looked deeply into her eyes and told her she had faced tremendous adversity in her life and overcome.
I blinked back tears and thought, “You don’t know the half of it.”
She, in her quiet, unassuming nature simply smiled back, receiving the compliment graciously, matter-of-factly. Yes, it is true. She has faced tremendous loss, terrifying trauma, rending grief and by the grace of God she still stands.
We left the dinner hand in hand and into the cold night air. We were in the middle of the parking lot when she broke the silence.
“Mom, the girls on the bus say I’m academically challenged because I see the resource teacher sometimes. Is that true? Am I academically challenged?”
I stopped in my tracks, instantly furious. It was very good that the little privleged girls were far away, tucked safely in their perfectly decorated bedrooms.
I delivered a few threats about how I was going to call that child’s mother before realizing that might not be the best thing for my daughter at her age.
“You had straight A’s on your report card,” I told my daughter. “That is not academically challenged. Tell her that. Tell her you got that all by yourself. No one held your hand or did your homework with you. You worked hard every step of the way!”
A few days later, when I had cooled down a bit, I called her to sit with me by the fire.
“Honey, sit here for a minute. I want to talk to you a bit more about what the girls on the bus said…”
I reminded her of where she came from, of how she came to me at the age of five and had only a short time home before she had to enter school without speaking English. I pointed out that I was the first person to read her a book, or show her how to use a crayon- all benefits her friends on the bus had been enjoying for years when they entered kindergarten. We talked about how everyone learns differently, and sometimes that means needing some individual instruction and there was nothing to be ashamed of in that.
Then, I reminded her that she had faced more than most people she would ever meet would, and had persevered and overcome.
“You know honey, I was thinking about that Taylor Swift song the other day that says people throw rocks at things that shine. I think that is what is happening here. You have achieved some success and these girls can’t stand it. It is really unfair because you have had to work so much harder than they have and overcome so much to be where you are.
You are blessed, my girl, and I know you are thankful, but I also want to remind you that you should feel good about how hard you have worked to get where you are. What is more, you are the daughter of the strongest, most resilent people on the planet. Haiti was the first black republic. They led a successful slave revolt to win their own freedom. You are the daughter of warriors. Hold your head high. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Ever.”
It was one of those rare parenting moments when you know you have hit a home run. I could see it in her eyes.
It is the hardest thing in the world to realized that it is far better to empower your child than defend her. Oh, how I wanted to defend…
And maybe inflict a little vengeance to boot.
“God forgive me, and give me a heart of forgiveness for those who hurt my child. You forgave those who hurt your Son. You are my example, but one I can only follow in your strength.